The original Reid Memorial Hospital in Richmond, Indiana, was built in 1905 and served the community for over one hundred years. During that time the hospital continuously expanded, adding new wings in new architectural styles to grow with the population.
Eventually the organization was forced to relocate to a new facility in 2008, leaving the old campus in the hands of eager developers. However bad planning, bad timing, and just plain bad luck has seen multiple investor groups fail to resurrect the old Reid – leaving the city an eyesore with a large unpaid tax bill.
Why did Reid leave, and why couldn’t the old campus be saved?
The former hospital, known among locals today as “Old Reid,” has origins dating to 1905. At the dawn of the twentieth century, St. Stephens Hospital had served the town of Richmond, Indiana.
But the facility was limited, with overwhelmed staff and only ten beds. Overcrowding was a problem from the start; by the early 1900s, St. Stephens was turning away fifty patients a week.
Help came from a group of investors led by wealthy American industrialist Daniel G. Reid (1858-1925). Reid (pictured) was a native of Richmond and had found success in business, eventually earning the nickname “the Tinplate King.”
To solve the healthcare shortage, Daniel Reid purchased fifty acres of land on Richmond’s north side from John F. Miller for $30,000. He then donated another $100,000 toward construction of a new hospital.
Additional contributions totaling $15,000 came from the estates of Robert Morrison and James Starr. Former Reid business partner William B. Leeds contributed another $10,000.
Architect John A. Hasecoster was tasked with designing the hospital. His final draft included the home of prior landowner John Miller, situated just to the right of the main hospital building (later demolished and today the location of the newer six-story H-wing.)
Hasecoster’s plans were accepted in 1904 and groundbreaking began soon after. The structure was built of Indiana Oolitic limestone and had a 57-bed capacity (later expanded to 75 beds). The cornerstone for the new Reid Memorial Hospital was laid on September 24th, 1904, while the dedication took place the following year, on July 27th, 1905.
[ Daniel Reid gave a great deal of money to build and support Richmond institutions, including the YMCA, the Art Association of Richmond, Earlham College, Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church and Reid Hospital and Health Care Services. Reid also donated $295,000 to build Reid Memorial Presbyterian Church in honor of his parents. ]
Over the decades the local population swelled and the healthcare climate evolved. Reid Memorial Hospital made appropriate changes to keep pace.
When possible, infrastructure was improved and new buildings added. Fundraising events were common as the hospital sought financial boosting to accommodate growth.
In 1910 the hospital opened a Nursing School to address the shortage of trained nurses. By 1928 Reid Memorial Hospital opened the “F wing,” a residence hall for the nursing students (pictured above left).
In 1950 Reid Memorial Hospital chairman William H. Reller ran a fundraising campaign to further expand the growing hospital. Once again the organization nearly doubled in size with the addition of a large six-story annex. Known as the “B-wing,” this annex opened in 1953.
Later that year the organization re-affirmed its financial deft by earning non-profit tax-exempt status in December of 1953.
Five years later, the new 154-bed “H-wing” was opened in 1958. In time the H-wing became known as Reller Wing, named for the man who spearheaded the hospital’s rapid mid-century growth.
Together these buildings are easily discernible with their industrial rectangular shapes and flat concrete tops, which contrast greatly from the original hospital’s classic design and V-shaped red roofs (pictured below).
By the late 1960s the hospital was once again starved for space and needed to expand.
Another round of fundraising efforts took place, and within months the funds had been arranged for construction to begin on the hospital’s largest addition yet: Leeds Tower.
This addition was named for hospital co-founder and Reid business partner William Leeds, and was built in a popular-for-the-era brutalist design.
Leeds Tower was penned by architect Robert Karlsberger and dedicated on January 11th, 1973. It displays both the functional potential of brutalism and how the design language can clash with classical architecture.
Expansion at Reid Memorial Hospital continued to keep pace with the region’s population growth. New annexes would continue to be added throughout the 1980s, tripling the hospital’s outpatient capacity.
Reid Memorial Hospital Growth: Stages
Reid additions pictured below, L to R: 1940s, B-wing (1953), H-wing (1958)
Reid additions post 1970: Leeds Tower & various annexes.
1970s & 1980s additions
Reid Memorial did not see a name change until its 87th year of operation. In the early 1990s, the industry witnessed a shift in healthcare institutions from focusing on hospital care to a growing outpatient services base.
In 1992 Reid changed its name to “Reid Hospital & Health Care Services” to better reflect this greater scope of treatments. (Now 23 years later, it will change again in late July 2015 to simply “Reid Health.”)
By 1994 the hospital had grown into a large regional hospital with 359 beds and 1,300 employees. To this point, its growth had been so significant few paid attention to the functional cracks starting to form. Those in charge, however, noticed before the turn of the century the hospital’s rate of growth was beginning to slip. The board knew further expansion wasn’t enough; a drastic upgrade was needed.
Reid’s narrow stairwells, old elevators, and small rooms were insufficient to keep up with demand, and they were not competitive with newer health centers. The newest wings of the hospital ultimately added more beauty and outpatient services than beds.
The original ninety year-old structures were still needed for patients, rendering the 1970s and 80s additions nice but functionally moot to the underlying problem of the older infrastructure and limited capacity.
Old Reid Memorial Hospital in its final operating days
Management tried valiantly to make more efficient use of a resource that was itself declining in efficiency. To offset higher costs, outreach programs were reduced and the IT department was outsourced in the mid-1990s.
New Reid Opens, Old Reid Closes
To their credit those in charge of Reid Hospital and Health Care Services were wise to the dynamic changes and planned accordingly – but it was clear a move to a new facility was needed to survive.
In September of 2000, the governing board officially voted to relocate to a new, purpose-built campus.
In September of 2004 the organization broke ground on its new location with help from a cash injection via a tax-exempt bond issue, floated to doctors of the facility. This combined with an announced sale of the property in 2006 finalized the exodus and made possible the survival of the hospital.
In the spring of 2006 the buildings and land of the Reid Hospital & Health Care Services campus were sold to Whitewater Living Center, LLC, for $3.5 million.
Whitewater was an investment group created specifically for the acquisition of the old Reid Memorial Hospital. The seven-person investment group (which included four principals from Richmond) intended to create a mixed-use project on the site.
The Whitewater bid was not the highest, but according to officials from Reid, the investment group’s intentions to create jobs and avoid demolishing the buildings were key reasons their bid was accepted.
Progress would understandably not begin until Reid vacated the facility. This of course would not happen until the health care services organization had moved into their new, $315 million-dollar facility, about 1.5 miles to the north of the old Reid campus.
Whitewater waited in earnest and attempted to line up additional financing. Reid offered an initial estimated migration date for outpatient services in April 2007, with a final vacating of the old campus by November of that year.
Construction of the new Reid Hospital consisted of four phases. The first was an outpatient rehabilitation facility, completed in 2004. Phase two and three were the medical office building and outpatient care center, both opened in 2007.
Delays pushed the closing date of Old Reid Memorial Hospital back by nearly a year, as the transition took longer than expected. The emergency room didn’t transfer its last inpatient until September of 2008; by then the hospital was 103 years old.
On September 10th, 2008, at 7 a.m., the new Reid Hospital inpatient center on Reid Parkway opened to the public. Reid ambulances transported one patient from the old Reid every ten minutes until the move was completed.
(click to enlarge)
Old Reid Memorial Hospital photo set courtesy DunMiff/sys
Whitewater Living wanted to develop old Reid Memorial Hospital for commercial and residential use, featuring retail, restaurants, residences, and office spaces.
Additional ideas percolated as well, such as senior apartments, assisted living, or even student dormitories for Indiana University East or Ivy Tech.
But Whitewater didn’t get the keys until October 31st, 2008. By then the country was in the throes of a financial crisis. Financing tributaries had dried up, leaving developers and investment groups stranded. Markets tumbled, real estate prices collapsed, and Whitewater Living was forced to abandon its quest to redevelop of Old Reid.
The investment group sold their interest in the property in late 2008 to Rose City DevelopmentLLC, a group which included Mike Dickman, one of the principals of Whitewater. Chalk this one up to bad timing; headwinds with financing in the economic climate stalled this group before they were able to get off the ground.
In June of 2010 a third attempt to redevelop old Reid Memorial Hospital again gave hope to those who wanted to see the 105 year-old campus preserved.
New Yorkers Bob Ciprietti and Ernesto Zamparini, principal owners of Spring Grove Development, LLC, were the buyers in the transaction with Rose City Development. Interestingly, Ciprietti was listed as a principal for both Rose City Development and Spring Grove Development.
Spring Grove Development proposed a $21M renovation for the 64-acre site, outlined in three phases. The first phase would convert the old hospital into student housing, the second would include building a 150-room hotel tower, and the third was to develop a technology park.
The catch was again financing, as developers noted this project required “Tax Increment Financing,” a public taxation tool that would require city council approval for implementation. If the numbers worked, construction could begin as early as the fall of 2011.
Less excited were Richmond city officials, who appreciated the concept but realized the municipality could ill-afford to subsidize plans to develop the old Reid Memorial Hospital.
Spring Grove Development did not waver in lobbying its cause, and by March of 2011 it had enough community support to warrant a special city council meeting on the matter of tax financing. Council members agreed to make a one-time contribution of $125,000 from the Economic Development Income Tax Funds pool, but they did not agree to tax increment financing.
Again the project stalled. Spring Grove, like Whitewater, failed to secure financing. Once again, a suitor had walked away – only this time, Spring Grove was unable to find a buyer and abandoned the property.
Old Reid Memorial Hospital Deteriorates
After Reid left, equipment and furniture was left behind – at the request of the new owners, according to Reid officials. When it was realized the redevelopment was not going to happen, auctions were held for the holdover equipment and furniture that did not make the transition to the new hospital.
Chairs, computers, and equipment that did not sell at auction stayed behind, delaying the inevitable fate of disposal by a future owner. While the city negotiated with developers, the buildings themselves suffered. Vandals smashed windows, scavengers scrapped wiring, and graffiti artists helped themselves to the new blank canvas in their backyard.
Spring Grove Development, LLC, stopped paying property taxes in 2011; by 2012 the old Reid Memorial Hospital property had accumulated more than $120,000 due in delinquent taxes forcing the city to put a lien on the property.
Mayor Sally Hutton astutely noted the lack of property tax payments doesn’t bode well for the future of the development project. “You would think if they were serious about developing the property they would keep their debts cleared.”
In July of 2012 a proposal was submitted to build a Dollar General store on one of the four parcels of land, however the proposal quickly stalled because city did not wish to subdivide the property.
Old Reid Memorial Hospital’s deteriorating condition was eating away at county officials, but their tools for enforcement were limited. The property’s tax liabilities gave the city its only window to take action. In December of 2013, the Wayne County board of commissioners and treasurer filed a lawsuit against Spring Grove Development over its accruing debt and failure to take action on the site.
Urban explorers were already intimately familiar with Old Reid Memorial Hospital, but in January of 2014 local news crews were allowed access for the first time.
The public was instantly exposed to the decay wrought by thieves, vandals, and Mother Nature over a scant six years of disuse.
The level of blight was surprising to Reid director of engineering Jeff Cook. “When we left that building, we left it in operational shape. The equipment we left was left at the request of the first owners.”
“Someone could have come in and started operating the next day.”
That was in 2008. Today? Not so much.
Currently the old Reid Memorial Hospital has no electricity or security staff. Previous owners tried several times to board up entrances and exits, but adventurous trespassers removed them and found other ways in. Eventually, the property owners gave up the battle with trespassers and stopped trying to keep them out.
Some rooms are empty, others display antiquated electronics covered in a dust of time that has stood still. Yet just about everything is overwhelmingly ransacked.
A letter board in the emergency room still has names of the hospital crew that worked on the final day in September of 2008 – but the glass and lock are broken, and other letters have been removed or re-arranged.
Conduit hangs down dangerously from the ceilings, pilfered for its valuable metals and immediately discarded. Ceiling panels are scattered, many having been dislodged, removed, or destroyed. Years of freeze and thaw cycles have produced cracks and warping. Moisture stains abound.
Standing water in the flooded lower levels has fostered mini ecosystems flush with mold. The city has seasonally run a sump pump – sometimes 24 hours a day – for the collecting water in the basement (pictured below).
Dozens of small arson fires have been started inside the buildings – the largest being in the auditorium – but none have been successful in bringing down Old Reid.
Fire Inspector Mike Davis describes the different types of fires: “Some of them are destructive for destructions sake, some of them are to melt to get to the actual metals, and some of them are to keep warm.”
Fortunately none of the fires have been fatal to residents or the building. Anecdotally, the Richmond Fire Department says the construction of the building is such that it cannot easily burn to the ground.
City officials have grown weary of the dilapidated structures. They are an eyesore and present a safety liability – not to mention the issues surrounding burglaries and fires which tie up emergency response personnel.
In February of 2014 the Richmond Police Chief estimated the department has had close to 200 calls to the hospital in the five and a half years since its closure in late 2008.
The city preferred to re-use the buildings if possible, but demolition bids were sought as a contingency plan. Early 2014 estimates had demolition costs pegged north of $6 million.
Reid Goes to Auction
By August of 2014 the old Reid Memorial Hospital property had accumulated more than $464,000 in back taxes. The city had tried and failed to recoup the money by placing liens on the property and pursuing the owners in court.
When these methods failed, the hospital was then added to the county property tax sale, an auction in which buyers can typically purchase properties by satisfying the outstanding liens.
In theory, if the property sells both sides win: The city sees outstanding debts paid by a developer willing to contribute fresh capital. The developer can potentially purchase a property well below market value and work with a tired and desperate city who is likely more receptive to working with developers than before.
The September 30th, 2014 auction witnessed 150 properties go up for sale. At the top of the offering list was the six parcel, 60-acre former Reid Hospital at 1403 Chester Blvd – which by this time had accrued $501,251 in back taxes and penalties.
Seventy four of the properties sold at the auction, but among the unsold listings was old Reid Memorial Hospital. It had recently been discovered the buildings had serious asbestos concerns – the property wasn’t going down without a fight. The news scared bidders away but earned the city grants from the Environmental Protection Agency for further site evaluation.
In March of 2015 the results of a preliminary study by the Indiana Department of Environment Management were made public. Officials were not expecting groundwater contamination as the report found; it revealed levels of dioxins, lithium, arsenic, thallium and gross alpha particles above the legal allowable limits.
– Tony Foster, Richmond Development Department director
By late spring of 2015 the buildings remained in purgatory as further testing was ordered. Leaking barrels and drums sit with medical waste, still waiting to be sanitized and emptied. Contaminants were found along the main drive into old Reid Memorial Hospital and under parking lots. In addition, a makeshift dump site was found at the far-east end of the property – although officials believe this might have been a product of local residents and not the hospital itself.
Richmond Development Director Tony Foster shared the city’s position on the matter, but was unable to offer a timeline:
“Right now, I don’t know that anybody can determinethe full extent of the contamination. The next step would be to do further testing to delineate the scope of the contamination… It is a little frustrating. The timeline for cleaning that up is now unknown. Just raising the money, demolishing the buildings and cleaning it up would have taken a long time if the ground were clean. When you get into soil and ground water contamination, from history, we know it’s a long, long process to get it cleaned up.”
For its part Reid has worked with the city in analyzing the problems facing the property. The organization issued a statement and has said it will deal with issues for which it may be responsible, however it claims to have nothing to do with the building’s current dilapidated condition. Reid spokesman Larry Price let city residents know of their involvement:
“Of course we are concerned. Reid is cooperating, but I don’t think anyone knows enough to know if we have any responsibility. We haven’t owned the property in nine years, but we did own it for 100 years prior to that. Reid is definitely aware of it, in meetings with everybody and is cooperating as much as we can.”
Old Reid Memorial Hospital images courtesy KICKS96.com
At a minimum, the buildings removal will now be expected to cost several million dollars and take several years.
Meanwhile, the county’s court case against the property owners for back taxes was grinding to a halt. In April of 2015 the county attorney filed an amended motion in the ongoing attempt to serve a summons to the property owners. Attorneys revealed the old Reid Memorial Hospital has since grown its delinquent tax bill to $527,042.
In healthcare it is not uncommon for advancements in medicine and technology to force changes to infrastructure. In other instances a growing patient base requires an increase in capacity. Viewed through this lens, it is a testament to Reid Memorial’s management that the organization managed to extract more than one hundred years out of the facility.
Photographer Cynthia Rauch offered a third-party view as she documented the hospital’s transition and worked side-by-side with the staff:
Currently there aren’t any suitors for the old Reid Memorial Hospital buildings, but the environmental investigation has frozen attempts to sell the property anyway.
An old listing on commercial real estate website Loopnet advertises the site’s helipad and access to an “outstanding labor pool.” As of July 2015 the ad remains online – but it reflects the old Reid Memorial Hospital is no longer on the market.